Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Weed triage

As I just said over on Grow It Eat It, I pulled out 35 gallons of garlic mustard this morning, counted by the 5-gallon bucketful.  What I was coy about there was just how much remained to be pulled.

That's some of it.  Not just in the foreground; check out further down the hill.  Another 7 buckets there, I'm guessing.  Luckily I have near-eradicated it in the front part of the half-acre.  Well, almost near-eradicated.  You can pull the stuff up and it grows back from a piece of root you missed or a seed that was shed three years back.  Eventually I may win, or you may start seeing posts praising the subtle beauty of the stuff.

Kinda pretty, no?

It has allelopathic chemicals that kill other plants in its vicinity, so it takes over entire fields, and it grows in sun or shade, though best in part shade.  Woods with thin understory?  Perfect.  The parks around here have competitive garlic mustard pulls in the spring.

Anyway, I've decided to take a new approach to the endless battle against weeds: triage and selective attack.  Instead of trying to pull all the weeds from one or two beds, I'm going after one type at a time in a broader area, preferably that which provides the biggest threat, like garlic mustard about to go to seed.  Another priority for this week: Japanese honeysuckle, about to become inaccessible under shrubs that are filling out.  I already missed my chance to get the vines living under the lilacs before they gained camouflage.  The honeysuckle is evergreen, which gives it an unfair advantage.  A month ago I could spot it clearly; now the lilac leaves hide it well.  But I'll give removing it a try.

Clearing aggressive weeds like these is kind of like cleaning up a neighborhood that's been dominated by drug dealers or gangs, not that I have any personal experience with that, but it seems to me that if you only take out most of the hardened criminals, the ones that are left will have a clear field to advance themselves.  Weeding in sections, I always leave a few garlic mustard plants behind by accident, and that's enough to seed a whole new set of thugs.  Better to get them all out of one part of the yard with a few years of thorough clean-out, ignoring the small fry if necessary (I can get to like ground ivy, really).  Where I don't have "lawn" (mostly ground ivy) and never intend to have civilized beds of Gardener-Approved Plants, I am putting in aggressive but pleasant-smelling spreaders such as lemon balm and mountain mint, so at least I have something there that I can pretend is on purpose.  I'm not sure how that works into my fraught analogy.  Well-meaning politicians and community organizers?  Who breed out of control?  At least lemon balm makes nice tea.


  1. oh, that's my new system too! I get all the shotweed one day when they're starting to form seedpods, the dandelions when they are yellow,all the onion grass one day when I have the strength to dig... I think it's a good method.

    1. I think it is too, though wouldn't you know I didn't get back to pull out the rest of the garlic mustard. But I do have an insane amount of it. I have a few days left before it goes to seed...